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2022 FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

Elections: 5 key points from Macron’s letter to the French people

French President Emmanuel Macron announced that he would run for reelection in a long letter to the French population, published in French regional newspapers on Friday. We take a look at the key points of his missive.

French President Emmanuel Macron declared his intention to run for reelection in a letter addressed to the French people.
French President Emmanuel Macron declared his intention to run for reelection in a letter addressed to the French people. Here are the key points. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

It was never really in doubt that he would be a candidate, but Macron officially declared his intention to run on Thursday evening, just 24 hours before the deadline for declarations. He produced a long letter which was released online on Thursday and then printed in regional French newspapers on Friday. 

While the letter wasn’t exactly a manifesto, it did lay out some of Macron’s priorities. 

Here is what we learned:

Economy

“We need to work more and pursue a cut in taxes weighing down work and production”, he wrote. 

Macron’s first term has seen taxes fall for practically everyone in France, so no major change there. 

FACT CHECK: How well is the French economy really doing?

Environment

Outside of this, he spoke of the need for major investment to make France a world leader in sectors such as renewable energy, nuclear production and batteries, in order “to become a great ecological nation, which will be the first one to lose its dependence on gas, oil and coal.”

Macron’s supporters believe the current president has done more than any other to address the climate emergency – but critics say this is just a communication strategy. Since Macron took office, the French courts have twice found the government responsible for not doing enough to tackle climate change. 

He is hosting EU leaders at Versailles next meeting for a summit on European defence and energy policy, in response to the Ukraine invasion.

FACT CHECK: How committed is France to tackling environmental issues?

Equality

The letter also stressed the need to fight inequality, by “attacking it at the roots”. 

“We will make sure that all the children of France have the same chances and that republican meritocracy becomes once again a promise for all. For that, the priority will be given to schools and to teachers, who will be more free, more respected and better paid,” he said. 

It remains to be seen whether this pledge will win over French teachers, who have been striking over Covid policy in schools over the past couple of months. 

READ MORE Why are France’s teachers going on strike over Covid rules?

The president also said he would invest more to help elderly people live at home for longer in order to ease pressure on retirement homes; pursue greater inclusivity for disabled people; develop better preventative healthcare and address the issue of “medical deserts” – areas of the country where there are too few doctors or medical services to meet the needs of the population. 

Opposition to the far-right

Macron implicitly attacked his far-right rivals by saying that in addressing future challenges, France should not “withdraw or cultivate nostalgia.” 

“The challenge is to build the France of our children, not to rehash the France of our childhood,” he wrote. 

The two candidates most likely to challenge Macron in second round are far-right leader Marine Le Pen and centre-right candidate, Valérie Pécresse. 

Le Pen led a shamelessly anti-immigrant and Islamophobic political career for decades. Pécresse meanwhile made reference to a far-right conspiracy theory known as the Great Replacement Theory at a campaign rally last month. 

Immigration and identity politics was conspicuously absent from Macron’s letter, which took a more cheerful tone about “this beautiful and great collective adventure called France.”

A campaign unlike others

Without naming the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Macron made clear that this campaign would not be like others.

“I will not be able to lead this campaign as I would have liked to because of the context. But with clarity and commitment, I will explain our project and our will to continue pushing our country forward with each and every one of you,” he wrote. 

Macron has played a significant role in attempting to mediate the crisis in Ukraine, with numerous telephone calls made to his Ukrainian and Russian counterparts, as well as co-ordinating the response at a European level. 

A poll released on Friday showed that 29 percent of people said they would vote for Macron in the first round – a five point jump compared to just two weeks ago. All of his main rivals have seen their popularity slip in the same period.

“No doubt some form of campaign will resume but I believe the result is already a foregone conclusion. President Emmanuel Macron will win,” wrote our columnist, John Lichfield.

“Most of all he has won because three of his most important challengers [Le Pen, Zemmour and Mélenchon] have a long and ignoble record of glorifying or apologising for Vladimir Putin.”

Voting takes place over two rounds on April 10th and April 24th.

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POLITICS

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France’s disabilities minister

France's disabilities minister will not face a new inquiry "as things stand" over a rape allegation that surfaced just after his nomination by President Emmanuel Macron last week, prosecutors have said, citing the anonymity of the alleged victim.

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France's disabilities minister

Damien Abad has faced growing pressure to resign after the news website Mediapart reported the assault claims by two women dating from over a decade ago, which he has denied.

One of the women, identified only by her first name, Margaux, filed a rape complaint in 2017 that was later dismissed by prosecutors.

The other woman, known only as Chloe, told Mediapart that in 2010 she had blacked out after accepting a glass of champagne from Abad at a bar in Paris, and woke up in her underwear in pain with him in a hotel room. She believes she may have been drugged.

She did not file an official complaint, but the Paris prosecutors’ office said it was looking into the case after being informed by the Observatory of Sexist and Sexual Violence in Politics, a group formed by members of France’s MeToo movement.

“As things stand, the Paris prosecutors’ office is not following up on the letter” from the observatory, it said, citing “the inability to identify the victim of the alleged acts and therefore the impossibility of proceeding to a hearing.”

In cases of sexual assault against adults, Paris prosecutors can open an inquiry only if an official complaint is made, meaning the victim must give their identity.

Abad has rejected the calls to resign in order to ensure the new government’s “exemplarity,” saying that he is innocent and that his own condition of arthrogryposis, which limits the movement of his joints, means sexual relations can occur only with the help of a partner.

The appointment of Abad as minister for solidarities and people with disabilities in a reshuffle last Friday was seen as a major coup for Macron, as the 42-year-old had defected from the right-wing opposition.

The new prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, said she was unaware of the allegations before Abad’s nomination, but insisted that “If there is new information, if a new complaint is filed, we will draw all the consequences.”

The claims could loom large over parliamentary elections next month, when Macron is hoping to secure a solid majority for his reformist agenda. Abad will be standing for re-election in the Ain department north of Lyon.

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